See what I did there?
That’s step one: don’t look at it as a handicap. You have a balance of skills that are at least getting you to interviews. You’re not alone. You’re not the first. Wherever you find yourself challenged in your autistic experience, you’re also finding it easier in other places too: pattern recognition, hyperfocus, lateral thinking — the strengths will help.
But I’ll back up for context here.
I’ve been interviewed dozens of times for several roles. I have interviewed others scores of times for dozens of roles.
I’ve been on both sides of the table. I’ve been good at both. I still am.
So I’m going to share a 360º, holistic view of the autistic interview experience and where you may find it helps your next job interview.
You know you. That’s the one thing I looked for in interviewers: How much can I learn about this person? I wanted to answer as many unknowns as possible, the key one being “Who is this person?” If you feel you have a tendency to overshare, set guardrails ahead of time, and practice sharing within the confines of the questions.
Interviewing can be your new enthusiasm. You know that interviewing is practically its own field of study at this point, right? It’s hard to “hack” your autism, but you’ve probably had some instances and obsessions about other subject matter — research, study, watch people, and practice like it’s your new domain of expertise.
You can surprise your interviewer. I was always impressed when candidates did their proverbial homework. That takes effort, focus, dedication, and a lot of predictive thinking. It’s not 100% going to get you there, but you may find yourself enjoying learning about your role, and if that’s enough to help your eagerness, it’ll ease tension and exude confidence in the interview.
You may have a helpful communication style. You may be autistic and loquacious or autistic and verbose: if you know which side you’re on, that’s half the battle there. The other half is practice. If you’re blunt, terse, then practice your storytelling, Ernest Hemingway-style. He was one of the best, and he didn’t use two words when one would do. If you’re verbose, practice trimming those florid buds into shorter soundbites. Tolstoy wrote brilliant short stories too!
You can brute force the process. It’s still one of my best helps, and I can’t encourage it enough.
You know, your interviewer is nervous too. Yeah, it’s true. I was probably more nervous when interviewing people, because I needed to make the right decision in a very short window. You’re honestly not alone.
You can be 100% yourself. You need to be. You want to work for someone who’s going to want you for what and who you are, not who you can project to be. We all polish up before an interview, get our stories straight, find ways to endure a little small talk, but be you. If someone takes you for you, then that’s who you want to end up working for.